Yesterday, I had one of my all-time biggest epiphanies about customer service and the single best way to win over a client. It started with diamonds. Let me back up.
A few nights ago, Mike surprised me with a pair of diamonds studs as an early anniversary gift. Being the ever-savvy money man he is, he told me that the diamonds were actually going on sale in a few days, so if I took them back to the store, they’d credit us the difference once the sale was live.
Let me be clear: I love diamonds, and I love a good sale, so I was completely on board for this plan. Yesterday, I took them back to the store, explained the situation, and asked to be credited the difference. I was told that Mike’s credit card was needed to process the transaction. Mike was not with me, so I clearly did not have his credit card. The saleswoman immediately told me that without his card, what I was asking was impossible and couldn’t be done. There was no investigation, no problem solving, nothing. Simply: “no, it’s not going to happen.”
I’ve been an assistant for five years, and during that time, I’ve been tasked with pulling off some really crazy shit, so I can tell you with confidence: there is USUALLY A WAY to get things done. It might require a bit of extra time, effort, and creative thought, but most everything has workarounds (except licenses and passports – the government does not play).
I asked to speak to a manager. Once again, I explained the situation, and the response was immediately different. Rather than dismissing my request as impossible, he began thoughtfully pondering solutions. His initial response went something like: “Why don’t we try XYZ. It’s sometimes doesn’t work, but let’s try.”
This story has a happy ending (it had a happy beginning, too – I mean come on? Diamonds? Yes). The manager was able to do EXACTLY what I needed done without Mike’s credit card. Now, it took us a second to get on the same page about process and expectations, but ultimately, we were able to have this exchange because of his willingness to problem solve. In the end, I walked out of the store SO pleased and feeling extremely well taken care of.
Which stopped me in my tracks and now we’re back to the biggest epiphany I’ve ever had about customer service and how to win clients (other than capitalizing on your authenticity):
the single best way to win clients is to be solution oriented.
Now, being “solution oriented” doesn’t necessarily mean ALWAYS being able to find solutions, but it does mean always being willing to try.
I’ve been hired for two different assisting jobs for major Hollywood producers without even having been interviewed. Why? Because my reputation proceeded me, and my reputation was that I get shit done. I may not always be able to do it exactly as requested if I encounter limitations, but at the end of the day, I will find the best possible solution to my boss’s problems. They knew that if they hired me, I would own their problems, make them my own, and make things work.
This lesson extends so far beyond assisting. It extends so far beyond being a store manager. The marketplace is an exchange of goods and services to fulfill needs. People come to the marketplace in hopes of having a need met – whether that’s a need for a new pair of shoes or a marketing consultant for a startup. With so many options for goods and services, how can you stand apart from the rest? Why should people choose YOU over the next person?
The answer: because you adopt their problems and make them your own. Because you are SOLUTION oriented. Because you don’t dismiss their needs and requests in an effort to do less or do it your way. Because their needs are your needs.
Back to the diamonds. Let’s examine the differences between the first and second exchanges:
Me: I want to apply the current promotion to an existing purchase
Her: I need the original card.
Me: I don’t have it. Do you have any other way of doing this?
Her: No, we need the card.
And then, there was the second exchange:
Me: I don’t have the card and I want to apply the current promotion to this existing purchase
Him: Why don’t we try XYZ – it may not let me, but let’s try.
Do you see the difference? One was a flat out no with no effort at finding a workaround, and the other, while not promising results, at least made an attempt at finding a solution. I understand the second person was a store manager and might have had a better understanding about the store workarounds, but for the sale associate, the alternative would have been to call her manager herself BEFORE I requested to speak with him. That effort would have shown me that she cared about the problem I was presenting and was willing to take the necessary steps to explore solutions with me.
Your response to problems says everything about the service you’re willing to provide. Clients are less likely to remember how you treated them when everything was going smoothly than they are during difficult and trying times.
How can you be solution oriented in your business? Share in the comments!